There is no question that the past 14 months have been among the most challenging that many of us have ever faced – yet, it has also been a defining period of collaboration and growth in Lake County. Over the last year, society reconfigured the way that it works. As a result, we’re now well-versed in an entirely new vocabulary of words like Zoom, PPE and mRNA.
Along the way, Lake County Partners has had the opportunity to work at the front lines with business and community leaders who are playing a large role in getting us back to “normal.” To assist the small businesses that have shouldered the brunt of the pandemic, we led the Lake County government’s rollout of $16.5 million in recovery grants that helped 1,200 companies remain open. We also worked with our partners at Lake County Workforce Development to spearhead a response to help Abbott fill over 2,200 critical COVID-19 test kit assembly jobs in Gurnee.
As we’ve grappled with the ongoing challenges brought about by the current situation, we’ve also celebrated the promise of a widespread vaccine rollout and a return to the world we once knew. Most recently, in a groundbreaking partnership with Horizon Therapeutics, Lundbeck, Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited, iBIO and the Lake County Health Department, we opened two in-demand, privately funded COVID-19 vaccination sites in Zion that will go a long way toward ensuring vaccine equity over the next 10 weeks.
As we begin to emerge, there is plenty of cause for optimism. Our manufacturing sector continued to hum along through the pandemic and has broad plans for continued growth. Lake County’s key industries — life sciences, advanced manufacturing and distribution — have seen a surge in activity as they literally lead the country through this difficulty. Life science pioneers like Abbott, AbbVie, Baxter, Fresenius Kabi, Jaguar Gene Therapy and Novartis are advancing technology that saves and improves lives. Medical device manufacturers like Flexan, Jabil Healthcare, Flex, Sysmex, and Vyaire have been crucial in the production of lifesaving products. Distribution hubs, like the new 1.4 million sq. ft. Medline facility in the Alter Group’s Grayslake Cornerstone development, ensure that in-demand products are safely delivered to those in need across the world.
As future needs arise, Lake County will be ready as never before. In addition to Cornerstone, investments in speculative developments — like Bridge Point North, South Lake Industrial Center, Route 60 Logistics Center, Libertyville Corporate Center, and Hawthorn Mall — are at a high point, confirming confidence in the local market and setting the stage for a vibrant future. It’s no exaggeration to say that Lake County companies are shepherding important technologies, goods and services through their life cycles from beginning to end — a process made possible by Lake County’s robust talent pipeline and superb connectivity.
Though the labor market is tight, strategic collaboration among Lake County Partners, the Workforce Development Department, the College of Lake County, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, Lake Forest College and the Lake County Tech Campus is ensuring that our people have the skills that businesses need. Cutting-edge facilities, like the Advanced Technical Center just announced by the College of Lake County, will foster growth and innovation for decades to come.
Lake County continues to benefit from its central location between Chicago and Milwaukee on the I-94 corridor, four nearby airports, port and rail access and a tight-knit system of commuter options. To make sure that our employers can continue to recruit talent from across the region, we are driving conversations between Metra, Pace, the TMA of Lake Cook and the Lake County Division of Transportation and working together to reaffirm the safety of public transportation.
We believe strongly that riders will come back to public transit. Though we have weathered the brunt of the storm, there is still much to be done. Lake County Partners recently received a $110,000 federal grant to lead the creation of a new Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) for Lake County. The initiative comes at an ideal time, because it will provide a mechanism to engage the community and establish a vision that will guide our recovery from the pandemic. As a result, Lake County will benefit from new jobs, more private investment and enhanced economic growth.